Re: poly: Idea Futures, some questions

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Wed May 20 1998 - 17:03:06 PDT

Nick writes:
>> >>> ... infiltrate the group, ... protect itself from this prying ...,
>The problem of idea theft is certainly there today, but I'm worried
>that it might become worse with IF. For example, all you need to
>steal from a research group on an "Is coldfusion feasible before
>2010" future is the yes or no answer they have arrived at. But today,
>in order to benefit, you'd have to know their reasons behind their
>thinking (You can't publish just a statement saying "I believe in
>cold fusion." and expect to become famous for that.) ...

I grant that a system which more directly rewards people for answering
a question, rather than for telling a good story about their answer,
may allow for more stealing, if answers are easier to steal than stories.
I don't see idea theft as a huge problem though.

>Why would the prestigious journals not publish an explanation of
>these insights if their readers would like to read it? And if they
>don't, doesn't that create space for a new journal to crop up and
>gain prestige?

People like to read newspapers and magazines, but academic journals
don't displace all such things, nor do academics get much credit for
publishing in such places.

>What's wrong with the naive way of thinking about it: "As an
>academic, I usually give my ideas away for free, and I don't think
>I'm unusual in that respect, especially since giving away an idea for
>free seldom prevents one from "selling" it at a later occasion.

It's just not what happens. Read up on the sociology of science.
See "The Golem" for example. Read Collins, Woolgar, etc.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Thu May 21 00:11:00 1998

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